Over the years, South African journalists have reported on countless episodes of corruption directly tied to members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Many charges have involved high level officials, but none has seared as deeply as the clearly sanctioned bribery that occurred during the presidency of Thabo Mbeki in an effort to secure hosting rights for the 2010 World Cup soccer/football tournament. Below are devastating dispatches from the Mail and Guardian, South Africa’s premiere newspaper, and the BBC; there also links to documents central to the scandal involving bribery by officials at the highest levels. The denials offered by these officials, including Mbeki, are peremptory and entirely unconvincing—especially in light of information coming from ex-FIFA official Chuck Blazer, who has pleaded guilty in the U.S. to taking bribes related to South Africa’s bid.
Such corruption bears directly on our understanding—still incomplete—of how ANC President Jacob Zuma arranged for the escape of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir from South Africa in in defiance of a court order—this so as to avoid the threat to al-Bashir posed by judicial review of an application from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (see formal SALC application at http://wp.me/p45rOG-1JY ). Al-Bashir is of course wanted by the International Criminal Court on multiple charges of genocide and massive crimes against humanity.
Even for the corrupt ANC, the “optics” could hardly be worse: bribing FIFA to host the 2010 World Cup and facilitating the escape of a serial génocidaire. That former South African president Mbeki is leading African Union diplomatic efforts to bring peace to the Sudans seems all too in keeping with current AU attitudes—towards corruption, and towards the ruthless Khartoum regime, long a one-party tyranny…as South Africa’s ANC is on the path to becoming.
Unsurprisingly, the AU is currently led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma—former South African Minister of Health (recall the disastrous South African response to HIV/AIDS during her tenure) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (recall her declaration that the ruthlessly despotic Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, would “never be condemned” while the ANC was in power). Dlamini-Zuma is deeply implicated in the World Cup bribery scandal, even as she is considered by many to be in line for the number one position in the ANC.
Mugabe is titular head of the African Union
South Africa’s sports minister says the decision to donate $10m (£6.5m) to FIFA to develop Caribbean football was approved by then President Thabo Mbeki.
The payment, which South Africa denies was a bribe to secure the 2010 World Cup, is central to the FIFA scandal. The claim comes after a letter emerged that appears to show officials seeking an indirect route for the transfer.
South Africa’s government said the letter did not contradict its statement that this was a legitimate payment. It says the cash was to fund the development of football for the African diaspora in the Caribbean and that the reporting of the letter in South Africa’s Mail & Guardian [see below] was “regurgitation and sensation.”
The letter was written by then South Africa FA head Danny Jordaan three weeks before the first amount was paid in 2007. US prosecutors say the money, which is a key plank in the wide-ranging criminal inquiry that has engulfed world football’s governing body, was a bribe to FIFA officials.
Seven top FIFA officials, including two vice-presidents, were arrested last week in Switzerland as they awaited FIFA’s congress.
They were among 14 new indictments in the US investigation, which alleges they accepted bribes and kickbacks estimated at more than $150m over a 24-year period. Four other people were charged earlier. One of them, ex-FIFA official Chuck Blazer, has pleaded guilty in the US to taking bribes related to South Africa’s bid. [all emphases added]
[Karen Allen, BBC News, Johannesburg]
Sports Minister Fikile Mbulula confirmation’s that it was former President Thabo Mbeki who made the decision to donate $10m is not proof of a bribe. The South African government maintains it was a legitimate payment. But together with the leaked letter from Danny Jordaan, it does show the lengths the government appeared to go to not to be associated with the transfer of funds and that the top man in South Africa sanctioned the payment.
All this begs the question: If it was an above-board donation to boost Caribbean football, why the accounting gymnastics?
Mr Mbeki has said in a statement that he was “not aware of anybody who solicited a bribe” in return for South Africa being awarded the right to host the 2010 World Cup. Mr Jordaan’s letter, dated three weeks before the first tranche of the $10m payment was made, sets out how the transfer was to be made—based on a promise—and honoured three years after South Africa won the right to host the tournament.
The US indictment revealed a conundrum faced by the South African government: that it was unable to arrange payment directly from government funds.
On Friday, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula told the Beeld newspaper that Mr Mbeki had authorised the payment after he “spoke with the leadership of the 2010 World Cup local organising committee.” “[It was] the government’s idea,” he added.
In a statement released last week when the scandal began, Mr Mbeki said: “I wish to state that the government that I had the privilege to lead would never have paid any bribe even if it were solicited.”
Danny Jordaan’s damning letter to FIFA
A letter implicates the South African World Cup boss and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the $10-million payment now alleged to be a bribe.
South African 2010 World Cup boss Danny Jordaan asked FIFA to pay the $10-million that United States prosecutors allege was a bribe after he had “a discussion” with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, now the African Union chairperson. Jordaan, a former anti-apartheid activist who re-entered politics as the Nelson Mandela Bay mayor last week, put the request to FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke in a December 2007 letter, which names Dlamini-Zuma and Jabu Moleketi, respectively foreign affairs minister and deputy finance minister under former president Thabo Mbeki.
Read Jordaan’s letter here | http://cdn.mg.co.za/content/documents/2015/06/05/071210jordaan-valcke.pdf
This supports the allegation, first contained in the US indictment of football officials internationally and unsealed last week, that the “government of South Africa” had agreed to a bribe, disguised as a football development contribution, for Caribbean football boss Jack Warner and two others.
The payment was allegedly to secure their support in the FIFA executive committee vote that won South Africa the right to host the 2010 World Cup.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, speaking for the government, has insisted that the $10-million payment was intended as a bona fide contribution to football development in the Caribbean. But it is understood from a senior government source that members of President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet are privately not convinced of this.
The allegations about South Africa have become the sharp end of the worldwide scandal unleashed by the US indictment, which describes “corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” in football. Among those in the firing line are Valcke, whom the New York Times has outed as the unnamed FIFA official allegedly central to the $10-million payment. Valcke, backed by FIFA, this week denied initiating or authorising the payment, saying the FIFA finance committee head, who has since died, had done so.
But Jordaan’s letter confirms that Valcke was the South Africans’ contact in the matter. Like a subsequent letter from Molefi Oliphant, then the South African Football Association president, Jordaan addressed his letter to Valcke. Oliphant’s letter was leaked earlier this week.
Read Oliphant’s letter here | http://cdn.mg.co.za/content/documents/2015/06/05/080304oliphantletterfifa.pdf
This week the Mail & Guardian also heard of an allegation that FIFA president Sepp Blatter encouraged the South African government at the highest level to accede to Warner’s request
(See “How much did Blatter and Mbeki know?” | http://amabhungane.co.za/article/2015-06-05-how-much-did-mbeki-and-blatter-know )
On Wednesday, Warner himself pointed a finger at Blatter. In a rambling television advertisement, he said he would no longer “keep secrets” for FIFA and that he had evidence supporting “my knowledge of transactions at FIFA, including but not limited to its president, Mr Sepp Blatter.” Blatter had announced his impending retirement the day before.
Jordaan’s letter to Valcke, like Oliphant’s later one, ascribes the payment to “a promise by the South African government,” before grappling with a predicament also identified in the US indictment: although the government allegedly agreed to the payment before the May 2004 FIFA vote, it subsequently shied away from paying it directly, presumably because of the risk. The indictment cites Chuck Blazer, the US football boss and Warner’s associate, as “periodically” asking Warner about his cut. He then learnt that “the South Africans were unable to arrange for the payment to be made directly from government funds.”
Blazer pleaded guilty in a secret 2013 plea agreement before assisting US authorities. In a New York District Court transcript unsealed this week, he confirmed: “I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup.”
Chuck Blazer, the former US football boss, has admitted taking bribes. (photo by Reuters)
Jordaan’s letter is dated December 10, 2007, three weeks before the first of three tranches totalling $10-million flowed from FIFA to accounts controlled by Warner, according to the indictment. It charges that Warner took most of the money for himself and passed $750,000 on to Blazer. A third unnamed official was allegedly also intended to benefit.
Jordaan tells Valcke: “The South African government has undertaken to pay an amount equivalent to US$10-million towards the 2010 FIFA World Cup diaspora legacy programme,” which ostensibly had to ensure the African diaspora in the Caribbean benefited.
Jordaan says Jabu Moleketi, then deputy finance minister and a member of his 2010 local organising committee (LOC), “recommended that this money be paid over to FIFA.” This appears to suggest that Moleketi felt the government should pay FIFA, that would in turn pay Warner’s development fund. Moleketi claimed on Thursday that the letter was “a fabrication,” and denied having “a conversation of that nature” with Jordaan.
Jordaan’s letter continues: “I have subsequently had a discussion with the minister of foreign affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has said that the [government] funds should rather be paid over to the [LOC]. In view of this determination, I want to suggest that FIFA deducts this amount from the LOC’s future operational budget and deals directly with the diaspora legacy support programme.”
This proposed triangular arrangement further distanced the government from a payment displaying the hallmarks of money laundering: FIFA would pay Warner, offsetting that against payments FIFA owed to the LOC, and the government would compensate the LOC for the resulting hole in its accounts.
Oliphant’s letter to Valcke was dated March 4, 2008, three months after Jordaan’s. Although it contained the formal instruction to FIFA to effect the transfers, two of the three tranches had already been paid, implying that Jordaan’s letter, and possibly other communications, had already given FIFA the comfort to proceed.
Damningly, Oliphant’s letter also asked that FIFA put Warner in personal control of the money. This is consistent with the US allegation that the diaspora programme was a fiction to cover the intention that Warner, Blazer and the unnamed official should benefit personally.
Oliphant specified: “The diaspora legacy programme shall be administered and implemented directly by the president of CONCACAF, who shall act as the fiduciary of the diaspora legacy programme fund of US$10-million.” Warner was the president of CONCACAF, the football confederation of North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Blazer its secretary general.
Mbalula, in several statements and, as the scandal escalated, at a press conference on Wednesday, insisted the payment was not intended as a bribe. “It was legacy money. South Africa chose to support the diaspora. It is our own policy of supporting the African diaspora. That is why the money was given to CONCACAF.”
He confirmed that the government and the South African Football Association (SAFA) had initiated the payment, but denied that any public money was used. Indeed, financial reports of FIFA and the South African department of sport and recreation make no specific mention of government transfers to the LOC. But National Lotteries Board records show that it transferred a cumulative R88-million to the LOC over the three years, starting in 2008. The amount, at the exchange rate of the time, was roughly equivalent to the $10-million hole left in the accounts of the LOC, and ultimately SAFA. It was earmarked for the building of SAFA football fields in South Africa.
Dlamini-Zuma, who also served on the LOC, did not respond to queries sent to her AU spokesperson, Jacob Enoh-Eban, on Thursday.
Moleketi said neither he nor Dlamini-Zuma, as LOC nonexecutive directors, had the authority to approve a payment. “In short, I think it is far-fetched. I have never seen such a letter; I have never had such a conversation with Danny Jordaan. So it is quite clear that the government was never involved in this matter.”
Jordaan declined to comment and said in an SMS: “Ministers dealt with issue.”
Stefaans Brümmer, Sally Evans, Sam Sole and Tabelo Timse contributed to this story.
* After the print deadline for this story, FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer responded to the allegation that Jordaan’s letter to Valcke suggests the latter was intimately involved with the $10-million payment, despite earlier denials.
This is her response:
“It suggests nothing of the sort. As Mr Valcke has already explained, all requests of any kind have to be made formally through the secretary general’s office. As our statement already says, SSAF instructed FIFA that the diaspora legacy programme should be administered and implemented directly by the president of CONCACAF who at that time was deputy chairman of the finance committee and who should act as the fiduciary of the diaspora legacy programme fund of US$10-million. “The payments totalling US$10-million were authorised by the then chairman of the finance committee and executed in accordance with the organisation regulations of FIFA. FIFA did not incur any costs as a result of South Africa’s request because the funds belonged to the LOC. Both the LOC and SAFA adhered to the necessary formalities for the budgetary amendment.”